Reviews |Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM

Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Review

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM
Review

Price when reviewed

£2100

$1998 / €2300
Check current price

Our Verdict

Very fast 50mm lenses seem to be in vogue at the moment and Sony photographers have no reason to look jealously towards other brands. The Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM is an absolutely superb lens that is sure to delight anyone who is prepared to pay for it. Even wide open, it captures an astonishing level of detail and the bokeh looks fabulous.

For

  • Incredible detail resolution
  • Huge maximum aperture
  • Dust and moisture resistant

Against

  • High price
  • Focus ring not customisable
  • Noticeable vignetting at f/1.2

What is the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM?

Sony isn’t short of 50mm lenses for its full-frame and APS-C format E-mount cameras, but the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM is a little bit special. In addition to its excellent optical construction, it has a whopping maximum aperture of f/1.2. That means that there’s plenty of scope for selective focusing and blurring backgrounds, and you can keep the shutter speed higher than normal when light levels fall.

As you might expect with a lens of its price, the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM is aimed at professional photographers and videographers.

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM price and availability

The Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM went on sale in April 2021 at a price of £2,100 / $1,998 / €2,300.

The FE 50mm F1.2 GM is available to order from Wex Photo Video in the UK and B&H Photo Video and Adorama in the USA.

Specification

  • Product type: Standard prime lens
  • Announced: 16th March 2021
  • Mount: Sony FE
  • Format: 35mm full frame
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups with three Sony XA (extreme aspherical) elements
  • Coatings: Fluorine-coated front element, Nano AR Coating II
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.17x
  • Stabilisation: Body integrated
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 11
  • Filter size: 72mm
  • Weight: 778g
  • Diameter x length: 87 x 108mm / 3 1/2 x 43/8 inches
Sony A1 review

Features

Sony is aiming the FE 50mm F1.2 GM at the professional market, especially wedding photographers, but it’s also suitable for portrait photography and videography.

It’s constructed from 14 elements in 10 groups with three Sony XA (extreme aspherical) to maintain detail resolution across the frame. Sony’s Nano AR Coating II has been applied to elements to reduce internal reflections and combat flare and ghosting.

Sony has also included seals in the FE 50mm F1.2 GM to make it dust and moisture resistant and the front element is fluorine-coated to make it easier to clean and keep fingerprints, dust, water and oil at bay.

The circular aperture has 11 blades to create smooth bokeh and it can be controlled via the camera or the dedicated lens ring. This ring has ‘click’ settings running from f/1.2 to f/16 in 1/3EV steps, but it can be ‘declicked’ for use when shooting video.

There’s also an ‘A’ setting on the aperture ring, when that is selected, the aperture value is adjusted using a command dial on the camera.

As you’d expect, focusing is internal so the lens doesn’t change length nor does the front element rotate during focusing. It employs four XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors for fast focusing and tracking. There’s also a floating focus mechanism that is controlled by a dedicated lens drive algorithm, which is designed to ensure high resolution throughout the focus range.

Two customizable focus hold buttons are provided on the lens barrel. These can be used for their default purpose or set to do one of a long list of other things, including toggling through the Face/Eye Subject options (humans, animals or birds with the Sony A1) when the Eye AF is active.

Build and handling

While it is quite compact and light for the focal length and aperture, the Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM measures 87 x 108mm and weighs 778g, which makes it a fairly substantial lens that you’ll want to support from beneath with your left hand. Nevertheless, it feels good on the Sony A1.

The aperture ring sits close to the lens mount and is easy to identify by touch as you’re shooting with the camera held to your eye. Similarly, the broad focus ring is positioned towards the front of the lens at a natural point to use with your thumb and forefinger. It has a smooth movement and, as the focusing is electronic rather than mechanical, there are no physical endpoints.

A switch on the opposite side of the barrel from the AF/MF switch lets you turn the aperture ring clicks on and off.

Sony has put the two customisable buttons at the 9 0’clock and 12 o’clock position (as you hold the camera) on the lens barrel between the aperture and focus ring.  That means that one is within very convenient reach of your left thumb whether you’re shooting in landscape or portrait orientation. It’s worth browsing through the customisation options for these buttons as you may want to swap settings in different shooting scenarios.

One disappointment with the lens is that the manual focus ring can’t be set to adjust anything when the camera is in autofocus mode. It would be nice to be able to use it to adjust exposure compensation, for example, (although that may cause confusion when there’s a dedicated exposure compensation dial), or the white balance setting.

Sony has put a rubberised end of the lens hood that’s supplied with the FE 50mm f1.2 GM. This means that it doesn’t clatter noisily if it knocks against something and there’s a soft cushion if you want to press the lens against the glass of a window. It’s a small point, but a nice touch.

Performance

Even just checking the images on the back of a Sony camera or in the viewfinder is enough to tell that the FE 50mm f1.2 GM is a great lens, but the results really impress when you look at them on a decent computer screen. The sharp detail leaps out at you while the out of focus areas look wonderfully smooth. If you shoot at f/1.2, that transition in sharpness happens rapidly, making your subject ping out from the background.

I tested the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM on the Sony A1 (review coming soon), and with 50-million pixels at its disposal, the lens shows its ability to capture detail. Even wide open at f/1.2, there’s an incredible level of detail visible – which is great news as you buy an f/1.2 lens rather than an f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens because you want to use that setting.

Inevitably, at f/1.2 there’s a slight fall-off in sharpness towards the corners of the frame, but it’s still very good and the drop-off is unlikely to be an issue for portrait and wedding photographers. As usual, the corner sharpness improves as the aperture is closed and by f/2.8, it’s fantastic.

I’d have no issue using the Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM at any aperture setting but if you’re pixel-peeping you’ll see that because of diffraction, images shot at f/16 are very slightly softer than those taken at f/11 or f/8.

Vignetting is noticeable at f/1.2, especially if the Shading Compensation in the Lens Compensation section of the menu is turned off. It’s worth turning this on rather than trying to correct it post-capture.

If you’re super-picky, you might spot a little pincushion distortion with architecture shots that have lots of straight lines, but it’s hardly noticeable and it certainly isn’t a concern, especially for portrait photographers!

Checking high contrast edges reveals that the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM controls aberrations extremely well and like flare, it’s not something you need to worry about.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM.

Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM image gallery

Verdict

While the price of the Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM might give pause for thought, the results from using it do not. It’s a spectacularly good lens that captures incredible levels of detail. Considering its aperture and focal length, it also handles very nicely and it’s good to have an aperture ring to put you right in touch with your photography.

The Sony FE 50mm f1.2 GM also focuses quickly and quietly, and the customisable Focus Hold buttons are a nice bonus.

Even the vignetting, which is technically considered a flaw, is likely to be appreciated by portrait photographers.

The only disappointment is that the manual focus ring can’t be used for an alternative purpose when the camera is set to focus automatically.

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